“Mother of all the victorious, Dharmatu Samantabhadri,
So benevolent, the only mother who protects the subjects of Tibet,
Possessor of supreme power, ruler of the dakini of the great ecstasy,
Yeshe Tsogyel, we prostrate ourselves at your feet.
May through your Grace, all outer, inner and hidden obstacles be overcome.
May by your Grace be long, the lives of the masters,
May by your Grace, this age of sickness, famine, and war cease.
May by your Grace, the spread of curses, spells, and black magic cease.
May by your Grace, life, glory and prajna grow.
May through your Grace, our desires be spontaneously fulfilled.
(written by Khakhyap Dorje (Karmapa XV), who, when he was a boy, was fed by the Dakines.
May virtue and goodness triumph!”
Translated by the Vajravairochana Translation Commission, with permission to be used).
This song highlights the importance of Yeshe Tsogyel, especially for the Dzogchen path of Samanthabhadra, the primordial Buddha of Nyingma. First of all, she is called “the mother of all the victorious,” the Buddha-and-and-of-the-three times, which constitutes an epithet for Prajna Paramita, the “omnipresent wisdom” of the traditional sutras. She is the mother because by achieving enlightenment and acquiring wisdom, we and all conscious beings will become buddha-and-and-buddhas.
Then it is called Samanthabhadri, the feminine aspect of the Primordial Buddha of Nyingma, Samanthabhadra, also known as the Most Benevolent One; therefore, it represents the feminine aspect of innate goodness.
It is also called the “very good one”, as it feeds the practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. As the dakini of wisdom, it is she who holds the supreme gift of enlightenment. She is the queen of all dakini’s of the “great ecstasy”, those that awaken the deepest experience of the wisdom of ecstasy and emptiness, the highest achievement of meditation. Vidyadhara said of mahasukha or the great ecstasy: “mahasukha represents the actual experience of ecstasy – a total experience, physical and mental, of the joy that arises from being beyond discursive thoughts, completely in the realm of non-thought. He who arrives here unites with the state of awakening beyond duality.” (Inima lui Buddha, 1991)
Yeshe Tsogyel, Woman
According to all Tibetan stories related to her person, Yeshe Tsogyel was a legendary woman who lived in Tibet in the eighth century AD. Like the legendary Buddha Shakyamuni, she benefited from a birth from a woman’s body, and had a human life and death, becoming an enlightened being for the duration of a lifetime.
As princess of the Karchen kingdom, she married the King of Tibet, Trisong Detsen, becoming one of its queens. Her spiritual master was Padmashambhava, or Guru Rinpoche, who is believed to play an essential role in the propagation of Buddhism in Tibet. Yeshe was his most important disciple, and after his death, she carried on the Vajrayana teachings, spreading them throughout Tibet. So she became another great master, indispensable for the work and success of Guru Rinpoche. Yeshe also has a special role as an example of an enlightened woman, in the context in which not many are the women who reach this state in a lifetime.
Yeshe Tsogyel was chosen by Sakyong as Tara or Prajna Paramita precisely because she was a real woman, from Tibet, and not an abstract, non-human symbol. According to Nyingma texts, Yeshe has attained the condition of Buddha, the immortality of the diamond body, and continues to appear in visions to those who harbor a pure aspiration.
Yeshe Tsogyel as a feminine principle
Beyond her life as a woman, Yeshe Tsogyel is inseparable from her manifestation as a feminine principle – the non-dual wisdom that assumes a feminine (or, in other cases, a masculine) form, if it is symbolically represented.
Thus, the Yeshe Tsogyel woman also represents an emanation of the enlightened feminine principle, just as Guru Rinpoche represents the emanation of the enlightened masculine principle.
Female wisdom and the power of male action are two axes of enlightened consciousness; wisdom without the means of action is ineffective, and the power of action without wisdom is chaotic.
Only when both are cultivated by spiritual practice and are experienced in inseparable union, then and only then can the enlightened state of a being flourish.
In the Pantheon of Tibetan Buddhism, Yeshe Tsogyel manifests herself on three levels: in an incarnated, physical feminine form (nirmana kaya), she appears as the princess of Karchen and later, as queen of Tibet.
In symbolic form (sambhoga kaya), she appears as Vajrayogini, one of the most important women – the yidam (deities used as support in meditations) from Tibetan Buddhism, which appear in vajrayana ritual practices along the line of Buddhism related to Shambala.
And in its most subtle, formless essence of the aspect of boundless space (dharma kaya), Yeshe Tsogyel is Samanthabhadri, the feminine counterpart of Buddha Samanthabhadra, the first, the essence of kindness and good, the essential nature of the mind and the ultimate source of the spiritual path in Nyingma Buddhism.
As for the story of her life and her symbolism, these two aspects – as a female being and buddha manifestation at the linden levels (trikaya) are inextricably interwoven.
For example, the story of yeshe Tsogyel’s conception and birth
it is said twice, once for its manifestation as a feminine principle, and once again to describe its human parents and how Yeshe Tsogyel was conceived. In her dual aspect of an ordinary human being and a triple manifestation of Buddha, Yeshe Tsogyel does not differentiate herself from any other woman, except in that she has recognized her true inner nature. Thus, she comes to be a spiritual model and guide for other human beings.
As an aspect of the feminine wisdom of the spiritual path, it also has the role of protector of the spiritual path of the practitioner Vajrayana.
It ensures the integrity of the teachings, the protection of masters and disciples, the place and time of Vajrayana practices and their transmission.
Yeshe has a responsibility to guarantee the pure perpetuation of teachings and the survival of the community of disciples of this spiritual path. This is why the vajrayana disciples beg for His Grace in their prayers.
Biographies of the sacred life of Yeshe Tsogyel
There are three English translations of Yeshe Tsogyel’s sacred biography or namthar (rnam-thar), enunciated in the order recommended for the study.
1) Gyalwa Changchub and Namkhai Nyingpo, “The Lady Born of Lotus: The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyel”, translated by the Padmakara Translation Commission (Boston, Shambala Publications, 1999). This is accompanied by an excellent introduction.
2) Keith Dowman, “The Celestial Dancer: The Secret Life and the Songs of Mrs. Yeshe Tsogyel” (London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1996). This translation contains a lot of additional information and explanations.
3) Nam-mkha’i snying-po, “The Mother of Knowledge: The Enlightenment of Ye-shes mTsho-rgyal”, oral translation by Tarthang Tulku (Oakland, CA, Dharma Press, 1983).